Web2.0 and technology strategy planning – it’s all about the customer

On Wednesday I went to a workshop technology strategy planning workshop – organised by LIANZA and presented by Richard Hulser. This would be a very useful course for those writing a technology strategy – either those who hadn’t done one before, or those wanting a refresher on what a good model would be. Sometimes courses like this don’t tell you anything new, but they the remind you/clarify your own thinking/confirm what you already know. It would have been useful in that context for me in previous jobs I’ve had, not so much the one I have now.

 I was probably expecting a bit more of web 2.0 focus – and although this was mentioned it really wasn’t the central focus of this workshop. Having said that the workshop did remind me that while there is a lot of appeal in leaping in and giving things a go (particularly to help you learn about something), when it comes to utilising social networking technologies in customer services, this is probably better done in response to meeting a customer need/identified service delivery requirement, in the context of the overall organisational strategy.

The key thing for me is how we assess those needs. I think librarians still have a way to go to get good at this – we need to get better at  at gathering information about our customer needs, and analysing the information we already gather via surveys, feedback forms etc. 

 Further to this – Why Web2.0 projects fail

 As I have typed up my report for work I came across a very interesting blog post by Meredith Farkas who talks about why 2.0 initiatives fail – which gives some good food for thought about what you need to consider to make them succeed. 

I’ve summarised some points here, as they are quite relevant to technology strategy planning as it relates to web2.0:

  •  social software implementations need to be tied to institutional goals – the library’s strategic plan
  •  web2.0 technologies need to be planned for in a strategic way
  •  first need to understand the needs of your population (patrons or staff) and then implement whatever technology and/or service will best meet those needs
  •  need to have clear goals in mind from the outset so that you can later assess if its successful or not
  •  social software can be a pet project for an individual staff member, it is important that cross-training takes place so that if that person leaves or gets too busy, the initiative continues
  •  web2.0 technologies are easy to start but keeping them going takes time and effort. You need to plan how you will maintain the technology e.g. adding content, updating the software. “Libraries need to plan for the implementation and continued maintenance of 2.0 tech in the same way they plan for the technologies they pay a small fortune for.”
  •  Library staff can end up abandoning web2.0 projects because they aren’t given enough time to work on then
  •  Before a project is abandoned try to figure out why it didn’t have the impact hoped for – is more promotion needed, are there barriers to usage (difficult to make comments, add content etc), are staff comfortable with the technology, has training been offered
  • Just because a web2.0 technology isn’t a good fit now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future (worth remembering!)

Marketing orientation as a management style

A very useful article that explains how one library took a look at all the components of the marketing mix and adopted them as a management strategy is Walking the talk, market orientation in academic libraries : a case study of Queensland University of Technology Library, Australia –  a paper presented at an IATUL conference by Barbara Ewers.

Ewers echoes Alison Circle’s sentiments (and my own) when she says:

there seems to have been a fragmented application of marketing principles in the management and operation of libraries because they have lacked strategies to translate the marketing management into their functional management

and critically:

in a market orientated organisation, marketing isn’t pushed off to one side as promotion or public relations. Marketing orientation is an organisational management style

Ewers goes on to describe what she calls the 7 Ps of service marketing: product; price; processes; place; physical evidence; promotion and people, and how these have been utilised at QUT Library as strategies and  indicators of performance measurement.

Although the article provides an example from an academic library it is an excellent starting point for exploring the idea of marketing as a strategy rather than a tactic.

Ewer’s concludes with 7 suggestions that would be applicable to any library seeking to devise a marketing strategy:

  • understand your clients through market research
  • identify your client market – using segmentation and targeting
  • identify your strengths as a competitive business – positioning
  • know the product your clients want and where they want to use it
  • develop effective and efficient procedures to facilitate outcomes for clients
  • employ and train staff in client relationship marketing as well as work skills
  • communicate the benefits of your product over that of your competitors